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Beryl Bainbridge, image, unframed, JPEG.jpg

Literary Women

Writers and Revolutionaries

2 - 16 July 2021

Monday to Friday 9:30am to 5:30pm, or by appointment

Literary Women: Writers and Revolutionaries

Ben Elwes Fine Art celebrates two remarkable British women and their ground-breaking careers. Newly-discovered works shine a light on the revolutionary journalist, social activist and nurse, Jessie White Mario (1832-1906), and the celebrated novelist and artist Dame Beryl Bainbridge (1932-2010). 


Depicted in a previously-unknown Carrera marble bust attributed to the American sculptor Anne Whitney (1821-1915), Jessie White Mario pushed traditional Victorian female boundaries and deployed her pen to advocate for the Italian Risorgimento, to protest against poverty and slavery, and to make a stand for the place of women in non-traditional professions such as medicine. Hurricane Jessie, as she was known, had international acclaim as a journalist with audiences in Britain, America and Italy. Through her marriage to Alberto Mario (1825-1883), she became a loyal adherent to the Italian revolutionary leader Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) and was author of his seminal biography of 1885.


Originally from Liverpool and described as a national treasure, Dame Beryl Bainbridge was primarily known for her works of psychological fiction, often macabre tales set among the English working class. Bainbridge won the Whitbread Award for best novel in 1977 and 1996, was nominated five times for the Booker Prize, and in 2008 The Times named Bainbridge on its list of ‘The 10 greatest British writers since 1945’.  However, most people are unaware that she was also a notable artist. In 2012 National Museums Liverpool staged a monographic exhibition of her work entitled Beryl Bainbridge, painter. Ben Elwes Fine Art presents Bainbridge in a 1965 self-portrait with her three young children which has recently come to light.


Visitors to Ben Elwes Fine Art will also be able to view works across four centuries, from an early 15th-century altarpiece to an innovative mid-century Perspex sculpture by Russian-British-American artist Naum Gabo (1890-1977), whose work stems from the upheavals of the Russian Revolution.   

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